by Guest Blogger: Chris Knox General Manager of Bin 2860
I recently launched a new website at www.winehaiku.com where I will be posting wine tasting notes in haiku form – kind of my fun way of getting people to think a little outside the box when approaching and thinking about wine. In any case, upon posting my announcement on Facebook of the site being live, I ended up sparking a similar idea in my good friend and colleague, Jonathan Mitchell, an accomplished sommelier and currently Assistant GM at The Palm restaurant in Beverly Hills. Jonathan decided to write a handful of wine inspired limericks and asked others to join in. Well, I couldn’t help but jump on board and join in on the fun! My first limerick was in praise of one of my personal favorite white grapes, Viognier:
Even though it is hard to say,
when I drink it, it makes my day.
So floral and fruity,
its name sounds so snooty…
Yes, I’m talking about Viognier!
Yes, I know, kind of silly but many of us had a great deal of fun continuing the thread, which went on for a good dozen or more wine based limericks – everything from extolling the virtues of Two Buck Chuck to the aphrodisiac qualities of Cabernet. I myself followed up my praise of Viognier with a fun little ditty about the dangers of drinking Mourvedre in bed before going to sleep:
The other night I had a Mourvedre.
I drank it while lying in bed.
With glass in my hand,
I drifted off to dreamland.
When I awoke, my sheets were stained red!
Where is all of this going, you might ask. Well, I for one am a firm believer that, first and foremost, wine is supposed to be fun. It wasn’t originally created as an intellectual distraction; it was likely a lucky accident that occurred when someone left some grape juice out for too long but drank it anyway and discovered that it made them feel a little happier. So, they kept making it hoping to replicate that same giggly, more relaxed and wonderfully giddy state that comes from a couple glasses of this magical elixir. And these lighthearted departures from the usually stuffy and serious approaches to talking about wine can really help people to re-connect with the true joys of wine – the social interactions that arise from being able to share our experiences with it and the simple pleasure that comes from sipping on this ancient and life-giving beverage.
Of course, as I mentioned in my previous blog post about Tasting Room Etiquette, none of this precludes any interest one might have in all of the little details and analytical aspects of wine. I certainly love to geek out with the best of them and if you do too then by all means, have fun with it! Just remember that not everyone will share in your desire to discuss the difference between a double gayot system and goblet training or the nuances of French oak compared to American. In the end, it’s about finding what you enjoy most about wine and celebrating that. If you love the social aspects more and cringe at the use of terms like “neutral oak” or “malolactic fermentation”, then find others who share your same sensibilities – it will make your experience that much more enjoyable. If you enjoy blind tasting or an in-depth analysis of every wine you taste, find some comrades in arms who will help to elevate your expertise to whole new levels. And on either side of the equation, if you do happen to find yourself in a room full of your opposites, just relax and remember that there is enough space in this vast world for all kinds of people and a wide variety of ways to appreciate wine. No need to try and fit in, per se, just continue enjoying the wine in whatever way is most comfortable for you.
It is truly a shame that unfortunately the wine world isn’t an easy one to navigate and it can sometimes seem as though much of it is set up to deliberately confuse and intimidate the consumer. But I assure you that it is not the case - nobody (well, mostly) is out to make anyone look stupid. More likely, all the confusion lies in the fact that we have essentially taken what was once a very regionally focused, village-centric agricultural product that people have enjoyed for hundreds of years and transformed it into a multi-billion dollar global industry. And this has all happened relatively fast. This results in a very difficult to navigate labyrinthian maze of cross-cultural differences in the way that wine is appreciated and communicated. Whether terroir or wine-making is more important, whether wine is thought of in a more region-centric of grape-centric way, whether the government should have a qualitative say in the categorization of wine – all of these things are vastly different from country to country and even from appellation to appellation.
Even the names of grapes aren’t standardized. Take Mourvedre for example (and remember not to drink it while lying in bed!). In France and the US, it is known as Mourvedre. In Spain, Monastrell. And in Australia, Mataro. How is the average consumer to know that the Juan Gil Monastrell from Spain they just bought is the same grape as the Jalama Mourvedre from Santa Barbara County? They never will unless they are inclined to ask the necessary questions that will lead them to that revelation. All this begs the question: Is it necessary to know these things to appreciate that bottle of Jalama Mourvedre any more than one might have already? In fact, it might even be said that such knowledge only convolutes things and prevents someone from living in the moment enough to truly bask in the enjoyment of that beautifully complex, meaty yet juicy, rustic wine. Someone else may counter with the statement that by knowing these things it will aid the consumer in helping them to find what they like. And still someone else may say that a willingness to explore the subtle nuances of wine leads to a willingness to try many new things which only broadens people’s horizons and reveals new joys they never new existed before. So, who’s right? I say they ALL are!
Despite the enormous amounts of information available to people via the Internet and countless books on the subject, not everyone will be so inclined to spend hours researching the differences between the wine labeling laws and standards of Bordeaux versus Burgundy. Nor should they need to. In the end, all that’s needed is to open a bottle of wine that is comfortably within your means, pour yourself a glass and as my good friend Jonathan Mitchell would say, merely ask yourself this simple question, “Do I like it?” If the answer is yes, then how wonderful! Your day just got that much happier! If you don’t like it, then how wonderful! You know what not to buy again next time you are in the store!
So, in the spirit of trying to make wine more accessible and less intimidating, I am declaring the month of June Make Wine Fun Month! For the rest of the month, forget everything you know about wine and just have fun with it. And to get you started, why don’t you pour yourself a glass of your favorite Santa Ynez Valley wine – perhaps a Viognier from Cold Heaven, Qupe, Zaca Mesa or Melville. Maybe a Mourvedre from Jalama, Tercero, Jaffurs or Tre Anelli. Or perhaps Rosé is your thing, in which case you might enjoy the Panky from Fontes & Phillips or one from Standing Sun, Beckmen or Kaena. Find something, anything, you like and step outside the box for a moment and think of ways you might have more fun with that wine. Invite some friends over to enjoy it with you. Try pairing it with music or with foods that one might not normally associate with wine pairing like In-N-Out Burger or S’mores. Sing a song about it. Write a haiku or a limerick about it (and be sure to share it with us in the comment section below this blog post!). Whatever you do, just have fun with it! Cheers!